Inside the abandoned 50,000-seat stadium that has homeless people living in stands after 20 years of disrepair
TIME is a relentless and brutal entity, and football stadiums are far from immune to its touch.
The Stadion Za Luzankami in Czechia is one such example.
AlamyThe Stadion Za Luzankami has fallen foul to the passage of time[/caption]
YouTube / FanKometaThe ground once hosted up to 50,000 people[/caption]
YouTube / FanKometaAnd holds the record for the highest-attended match in the history of the Czech first league[/caption]
YouTube / FanKometaIt was once home to FC Zbrojovka Brno[/caption]
AlamyThe ground holds legendary status in the country[/caption]
AlamyBut it closed in 2001 after failing to match Fifa and the Czech FA’s criteria[/caption]
The 50,000 seater capacity stadium in the Czech city of Brno has fallen into disrepair over the years.
Constructed between 1949 and 1953, the Za Luzankami was the largest stadium in the country in the 1960s and 70s.
The home of FC Zbrojovka Brno, the stadium holds the record for the highest-attended game in the history of the Czech first league with 44,120 at a game between Zbrojovka and Slavia Prague in 1996.
Consequently, it holds a legendary status in Czechia.
However, modernisation eventually saw the stadium left behind.
Zbrojovka were forced to leave in 2001 due to Za Luzankami not meeting Fifa and Czech FA criteria.
In 2012, plans were drawn up to allow Zbrojovka to return thanks to the reconstruction of the stadium, but amid financial concerns, the project was put on hold.
In the absence of a regular football team, nature soon took over the stadium.
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YouTube / FanKometaHomeless people began living in the stands[/caption]
YouTube / FanKometaWhile trees and bushes had overtaken the stadium[/caption]
YouTube / FanKometaFormer Zbrojovka captain Petr Svancara described returning to the ground as ‘a beautiful horror’[/caption]
Trees and bushes could be seen growing within the stadium, while homeless people began living in the stands.
The foundations themselves also took a mighty beating, with Zbrojovka captain Petr Svancara revealing there was a crack running through the whole stadium.
However, Svancara, now 45, took it upon himself to restore the stadium in an effort to play a farewell game at the stadium.
His campaign, backed by crowdfunding, eventually saw it reopen in 2015 in front of an estimated 35,000 supporters.
After the reopening, Svancara told The Guardian: “When we came back for the first time, you could have shot a beautiful horror film there…
“The stadium had started to crumble and it was for political reasons.
AlamySvancara led efforts to restore the iconic ground for a farewell match[/caption]
YouTube / FanKometaA lack of investment meant FC Brno needed to move stadiums in 2001[/caption]
YouTube / FanKometaA rescue effort led to the involvement of the community to restore the ground[/caption]
“It needed reconstruction but nobody would take care of it. The club was moved to Srbska and Luzanky was filled with trees and bushes.
“Homeless people lived in the stands, and the vegetation that started to take over even became home for some rare species of bird.
“There was one funny pheasant that we ousted from the stadium when we came back but it kept returning several times – he simply came back home.
“Leaving Luzanki divided the fans into two groups – one of which loved Luzanky too much and did not want to go to another stadium
“That was the case with the older generation in particular. It hurt the identity of the club enormously.”
Svancara reckons demand for the grand reopening hit 50,000, with the match seeing two teams composed largely of former FC Zbrojovka Brno players.
YouTube / FanKometaThe stadium eventually reopened in 2015[/caption]
YouTube / FanKometaHowever, the stadium remains a hot topic in the local community[/caption]
YouTube / FanKometaA petition was made to prevent its demolition for potential residential housing[/caption]
Speaking on the monumental effort to restore the stadium, he revealed: “Tens of people came to help at the stadium every day.
“Nobody ever asked me what he would get for it, which is incredible in the Czech Republic. The pitch must have cost around 100,000 crowns (£3,000) and the man made it for us for free.
“Many people came every Saturday instead of spending weekends with their families, and I think even people from other cities supported us. It captured people’s hearts.
“At first, we thought we would just clean up one part of the stadium – I was thinking that 5,000 fans would come to the game. But later, we saw that the interest was really big.”
Za Luzankami did become home to Zbrojovka’s Youth Team, and plans had been laid bare for a £40m overhaul.
The team has since left, while the ground has held concerts as recently as July 2022.
However, the ground remains a hotly debated topic.
In January a petition was made against possible residential construction which could see the ground demolished after a court ruled the land belongs to the City of Brno.